Second Language Career

How Speaking A Second Language Can Help Your Career

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As a young adult preparing to enter the professional world upon graduation, the ability to speak a second language is a great skill. From social media to participating in a globalized economy, interconnectedness is rapidly becoming one of the defining characteristics of the 21st century, and by speaking another language, you will be able to access and interact with more communities than you would as a monolingual speaker. To a potential employer, your ability to communicate with manufacturers in Asia or target Spanish-speaking demographics here in the United States is a valuable asset.

For certain majors and related career paths, bilingualism is a no-brainer. However, even if you aren’t a political science major specializing in Russia and the former Soviet Union, it’s very likely that a second language will still come in handy. In the United States, the need for Spanish speakers is quite strong in the communications and media industries.

How Speaking A Second Language Can Help Your Career

WPP, one of the world’s largest advertising companies, has an agency dedicated solely to creating advertising campaigns tailored to Hispanic people. Fox launched MundoFox, a Spanish-language network, nationally this past August. As a communications major, solid Spanish-speaking skills can lead to opportunities with companies eager to expand their reach by developing products that appeal to Hispanic people.

Speaking another language can also be beneficial in the liberal arts, such as literature and art history. As a literature major, having a second major in another language can help you obtain a position at a publishing house as a translator, thus enabling you to enjoy work in a writer’s native tongue and challenging you to help communicate the author’s sentiments to an English-speaking audience.

For art history students, proficiency in a second language not only enhances your studies while conducting research into primary sources, it also gives you a leg up when applying for jobs at art magazines, galleries and museums. Language provides direct access to culture, so the ability to speak another language exposes you to otherwise inaccessible insights and fleshes out your understanding of a writer’s or an artist’s work.

Obviously, if you want to work as a translator at Random House or as a research associate in an international department at the Council of Foreign Relations, you should be proficient, if not fluent, in your second language. For other positions, conversational speaking skills are perfectly fine. For students, this means that while pursuing a double major in your main area of focus as well as a second language would be ideal (get your money’s worth).

If you can’t fit the extra courses and workload into your schedule, don’t worry! A minor can still help you sharpen your speaking, reading and writing skills. You can also look into the study-abroad programs offered in your major’s department and see if there are any programs in countries where you can further cultivate your language skills. Joining relevant language and culture groups on campus can also help you work on your speech outside of the classroom.

For companies that regularly deal with international clients, bilingualism is an extremely attractive trait in a candidate. They like having an employee on hand who can engage clients with relative ease. Bilingualism also appeals to companies interested in entering new markets, which is becoming increasingly common in this age of start-ups. Simply put, speaking a second language can help your resume stand out in a sea of qualified applicants.

This article was written by Social Media Outreach Coordinator Melissa Woodson on behalf of CAREEREALISM-Approved Partner, 2tor — an education technology partner that partners with institutions of higher education such as Washington University in St. Louis to deliver their LLM degree in U.S. Law.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

2U

Founded in 2008, 2U partners with preeminent institutions of higher education to deliver rigorous, selective degree programs online to students globally.

10 comments

  1. Good one!! If nothing else, take it for what it is!! Being bilingual, whether it is ever used in one’s profession, says a lot about the person as an individual. It lets the world know that this individual is a smart person, that can and will apply themselves more than the average person, to accomplish whatever they need to accomplish. All joking aside, it’s different if you are raised bilingual, but is still an asset!!

  2. Agreed! Being Bilingual Will Help You Get a Job

    Being bilingual has never been a bigger asset when it comes to looking for a job. Even if one has no formal education, there is an opportunity for careers that require prospective employees to simply be bilingual in order to apply. Being bilingual can expand your choice of jobs as employers are in desperate need to communicate to more clients:

    1)Being Bilingual Makes You Valuable – Because bilingual employees are a rarity, employers value them greatly. Companies and employers need people that can communicate in other languages in order to see to the needs of their clients. Most employees are not bilingual, so someone else is needed to bridge the communication barriers. Fluently speaking another language is like having job insurance.

    2)Being Bilingual Opens The Door to Higher Careers -In the past many job opportunities required extensive experience. Now, more employers are finding that they can train individuals for the job role, if those individuals bring certain valuable attributes to the table. Bilingual individuals by nature now have the ability to take on job roles that they never would have before, because the employers need them.

  3. Margaret Nahmias

    Nice post. Even if the job doesn’t require employers like the attitude the comes with it and openess to learn other cultures.

  4. I think being bilingual is definitely good for anybody’s career and will always stand out in an interview. Even if you don’t get to use it practically. It has certainly helped me while living in Japan.

  5. Melissa,

    I am a blingual career expert here on careeeaism.com

    About six weeks ago, I posted an article on CR about the merits and advantages of learning a second language to boost one`s career. Take a look.

    Being bilingual can never hinder one`s career or interviewing prospects.

    Melissa Martin | Approved Career Expert

  6. Great post! Learning a second language can definitely make your skill set more attractive to potential employers. In your resume, whether it’s a traditional resume or a video resume, make sure to mention your foreign language skills. You never know what will put you ahead of the pack of other applicants, it might just be your second language!

    • The only second language you want to consider is Spanish and may be Farsi or Arabic. I speak 3 European languages. I have not had one employer who would care about it unless you are an interpreter. I worked in Maryland and California. The article is just a hype. Nonsense!

      • Hmm… Well, Russ, you know what you have experienced and I cannot argue with that. However, I have had many students for whom the ability to speak German was very helpful in their careers in the business world, in the military, in government service and in Academia.

      • As a teacher of Japanese of nearly 30 years, I have dozens of alumni for whom their language skills have meant advantages in employment, and hundred for whom their skills have brought life enrichment. Study of a language/culture in which you are interested in never a waste of time.

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